The Purpose of Nations
Part 4

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God may have established nations in judgment, but His heart was filled with mercy. God’s intent was not only to limit humanity’s ability to collectively rebel against Him but also to draw the hearts of the people back to Himself. In short, God has a redemptive role for nations.

Nations were formed when God divided humanity by confusing the language:

“Look!” [God] said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.” In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world” (Gen. 11:6–9, NLT).

By confusing the language, God compelled the people to spread out and fill the earth as He had originally instructed (Gen. 1:28; 9:1). Elsewhere, we learn that God governed this dispersion by guiding each people group into a territory specially selected for them: “When the Most High assigned lands to the nations, when he divided up the human race, he established the boundaries of the people” (Deut. 32:8a, NLT).

Despite having abandoned humanity to its lusts and passions (Rom. 1:24), God remained intimately involved in the stories of these nations: “From one man [God] created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. ‘His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us’” (Acts 17:26–27, NLT). Throughout history, God has governed the rise and fall of nations, down to the very individuals who comprise them. At times we might be tempted to question why God permitted various difficulties, but we are told that God’s purpose behind every national event is ultimately an effort to draw the hearts of people back to Himself.

Indeed, in the very next chapter of the Bible, after recounting the origin of nations, God expresses His heart to Abram: “All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3, NLT). God supernaturally built Abram into the nation of Israel to further God’s plan of redemption by being the recipients of God’s special revelation and His Messiah. Certainly, Israel has served a unique role, but Acts 17:26–27 reveals that every nation has played—and continues to play—an important part in God’s redemptive plan. God is actively involved in the affairs of every nation as He seeks to draw the hearts of mankind to Himself.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Biblegateway.com.